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More Flight Time Required For FOs On Airliners

by John M. White |

It always amazes me how much influence the 24/7 news cycle has on our legislators in Washington, DC. Take, for example, the FAA Reauthorization bill that is proposed to fund operations of the FAA. Within that bill is a victory for the families of the victims of the Colgan Air crash in Buffalo, NY last winter. Under public pressure the legislators have inserted a provision requiring that first officers on commercial flights will be required to have 1,500 hours of flight time before they can fly on an airliner. Any flight instructor will tell you that total time means nothing when it comes to competency in the cockpit. Rather, individual attitude, skill and attention to detail can demonstrate that a low time pilot can actually be safer than a high time pilot. Moreover, that accident would not have been prevented had the FO had more flight time alone. The problem with that accident was a lack of training, particularly with regard to operations in icing conditions, inattention during descent and approach, and an overall disregard for the sterile cockpit and cockpit resource management requirements below 10,000'. More Flight Time For FOs Once again politicians find "feel good" bandaid solutions to perceived problems without any real knowledge of what is going on. For example, read the following comment made to the article published on July 21, 2010 at BuffaloNews.com: Quote: "I certainly am sympathetic to the losses of the Flight 3407 families, but this is another case of "Feel good legislations." Captain Renslow had 3,379 hours (most of which was in SAAB 340's), and FO Shaw had 2,200 hours. Raising the legal level to 1,500 hours does nothing but raise the price of entry to becoming an airline pilot (for which we have a shortage). In only one article on this accident have I read the only explanation for Captain Renslow's seemingly odd reaction to a stall indication. The SAAB 340 (in which most of his time was spent) has a tendency toward Tailplane icing. The DASH-8 does not. Tailplane icing produces the exact indications that Captain Renslow felt that night (stick shaking (not airframe) followed by the stick being yanked forward). His reaction was correct for a tailplane stall - but this wasn't a tailplane stall, it was an aerodynamic stall. I read one article that said that the Dash-8 simulator that Captain Renslow had been trained in did not simulate the Dash-8's stick shaker of stick pusher. That fateful night approaching Buffalo was the first time he felt it, and he miss-interpreted it as a tailplane stall. This is a failure of Colgan's training (but its easier to blame the pilot). Like the commenter before me, I am a pilot with 40 years of flight experience. I am also a Basic and Instrument Certificated Flight Instructor and Ground School Instructor." In the final analysis it all comes down to attitude not arbitrary rules and regulations. Its not possible to legislate aviation safety - airplanes are flown by human beings, some of whom are flawed, all of whom are imperfect and most of whom want to get home safely as much as the passengers they fly. Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 ps: Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter "All Things Aviation" here!

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